Three German companies counter the crisis with production knowledge and inventive ingenuity
Company wins market share with process and product innovations
"In the middle of difficulties lies opportunity." This quote from Albert Einstein is more relevant than ever. Festo customers from 200 industry sectors rely on the automation technology leader as a "tower of strength" with its innovative products such as the high-speed H-gantry or the valve terminal platform CPX/MPA with integrated proportional valves, as well as proven reliability in terms of logistics and capitalisation. Dr. Ansgar Kriwet, Member of the Management Board with responsibility for European Sales, fielded a Q&A session during an online press conference held on 11 November 2009.
"Festo is winning market share - worldwide", announced Kriwet. Depending on the region, Festo is winning market share four to six times faster than the average. Many companies delight in Festo’s energetic, worldwide efforts in providing support throughout the entire value creation chain, from the offer, planning and design stages through to commissioning and repairs. The high level of technical skill of the field service staff is renowned, according to the automation expert.
Tower of strength
A further important aspect is Festo’s stability and long-term approach. As a typical German family-run business, the automation solution provider enjoys a solid capital base and consequently a high degree of security, which has enabled it to uphold its core competencies, even during times of crisis.
"The most important reason, however, for the gains in market share is that our customers, who are also affected by the crisis, more than ever feel the need to use innovative technology to enhance the performance and lower the price of their products," said automation expert, Kriwet. He went on to explain that Festo does more than merely compare between components; the aim is a systems approach for the optimum adaptation of pneumatic and electric automation technologies to mechanical engineering tasks. "Our customers benefit from innovations which lend their machines a decisive competitive edge," added Kriwet.
"We intend to exploit Einstein’s ’opportunities’ jointly with our customers," said Kriwet. More than 200 employees from Research and Development are working on long-term customer-specific projects. "We have further expanded our global research, development, production and logistics network during the past year. With our global presence in 176 countries, we are in an excellent starting position for when the economy revives," said Festo’s chief of European Sales.
Latest product innovations:
H-gantry and T-gantry with high dynamics - and low costs
High-speed H- and T-gantries combine the dynamics of a linear motor handling system with the costs of a toothed belt handling solution. This makes them 30% faster than conventional handling units.
Festo has developed both these high-speed handling units as an overall package consisting of controller and mechanical system for fast transfer and positioning, as well as for dynamic handling and assembly operations with workpiece loads ranging from zero to three kilograms in the fields of special machinery manufacturing, photovoltaic, electronics and small parts handling.
This new type of 3D/planar surface gantry covers a square-shaped working area that is significantly larger than that of robot systems with delta kinematics, which can only work in round or kidney-shaped areas. Other disadvantages of delta robots are the high costs, the installation weight of around 150 kg and the space needed.
The high-speed H-gantry, on the other hand, can be scaled to any stroke, has a very low profile, a low centre of gravity and a simpler base than fast delta robots. Optimised acceleration and deceleration characteristics enable strokes of two metres and one metre in the X and Y direction respectively, with an accuracy of 0.2 mm.
The T-gantry is a high-speed pick & place unit with higher dynamics than a conventional linear gantry and can be scaled to any stroke. In addition, the T-gantry is very compact and its high rates of acceleration in the Z direction are impressive. Strokes in the X and Y directions are 1000 mm, and in the Z direction 300 mm, with a positioning accuracy of 0.2 mm.
The engineering trick
Thanks to an engineering trick, both gantries reach speeds of 5 metres per second and acceleration rates of 50 m/s2 over the entire working area. The two toothed belt axes are connected to the crossmember with a single rotating toothed belt around the drive shaft. The belt is driven by two servomotors EMMS. A positive side effect is that no motor needs to be moved within the X-Y area with its two degrees of freedom. And reduced loads and two servomotors, which are mounted parallel to each other, facilitate quick, dynamic motion and result in less wear.
The linear-rotary module of the high-speed H-gantry is ingenious too. It consists of a spindle sleeve with integrated energy through-feed for the front-end module and comprises the Z-axis, to which the gripper unit is attached. The linear-rotary module accelerates to a speed of 1.5 metres per second at a rate of 20 m/s2. Suction and mechanical grippers with workpiece loads ranging from zero to two kilograms can thus be operated.
The electrical terminal CPX
is compatible with all usual fieldbus and Ethernet systems as well as internal company installation standards. A choice of three installation concepts, centralised, decentralised or hybrid, help shorten cycle times by up to 30% and reduce air consumption by up to 50%. Comprehensive function integration with pneumatic, electrical and motion control components reduces system costs by up to 20% and installation time by up to 60%.
CPX can operate autonomously as a complete controller, with the individual modules enabling communication for purposes ranging from a simple gateway function to a full controller and from the front-end level to the master controller level. The CPX-CEC module, for example, facilitates direct mounting on machines. This reduces installation costs and allows pre-processing or completely autonomous control operation.
CPX-CEC can trigger valve-terminal configurations with the modular valve terminals MPA and VTSA. It can also control electric drives as individual axes via CANopen and, additionally, proportional-pneumatic or servopneumatic applications.
Cutting downtime with diagnostics
With its flexible monitoring facilities for pressure, flow rate, cylinder travel time, air consumption, early warnings and visualisation, the CPX-CEC module is capable of providing comprehensive diagnostics in pneumatic (sub-) systems. The diagnostic concept, offering everything from condition monitoring through to individual channel diagnostics and integrated IT solutions, can reduce downtime by up to 35%.
The control module CPX-CM-HPP
provides access to the new world of control systems. It enables the Festo electric axes to be controlled via all the fieldbus nodes available in CPX. Up to four individual electric axes can be connected via a CAN bus interface. As a result, the electric drives are compatible with all industrial communication interfaces. The FHPP (Festo Handling and Positioning Profile) connection is used here, integrating the electric drives in the CPX system. The access module can control the axes individually and independently of one other. The CPX-CMXX multi-axis interface is available for additional functions. The integration of the controller in the display and control units FED saves space. With the integrated CANopen-Master interface, the valve terminals and electric drives from Festo can be connected directly to the FED-CEC display. The display communicates via the Ethernet interface with other controllers from the manufacturer of automation technology, which are also programmed in CoDeSys.
Synchronous movement with multi-axis interface
To achieve this, Festo is launching the multi-axis interface CPX-CMXX, which can execute both simple, individual axis movements and coordinated movements of several electric drives. The Festo configuration tool FCT enables users to configure two axis groups with a maximum of four axes per group without the need for time-consuming programming. With the "synchronous movement" configuration, the axes simultaneously reach the target position.
The PLC-based motion controller CECX-X-M1 is now available for coordinated multi-axis movements with interpolations and thus simple path applications. It enables users to program machines and systems individually with extensive PLC functionality. The motion controller is integrated in the overall concept of the modular controller CECX, which is the new fieldbus master controller from Festo for complete systems and machines. Thanks to the Softmotion function integrated in the CoDeSys programming and runtime system, the areas of application range from single-axis positioning movements through to CNC path interpolations with 2.5D.
Embedded controller for pre-processing with CoDeSys
Controlling machines with less wiring, more convenient diagnostics, monitoring and maintenance - Festo is now able to meet these user wishes with its CoDeSys Embedded Controller. The different variants of the CPX-CEC can be integrated directly into a CPX, the electrical terminal for valve terminals, thus providing high-speed pre-processing intelligence and all the installation advantages of the Festo world of valve terminals.
In combination with a controller CPX-CEC, the CPX terminal becomes a complete automation system with motion control for electric drives, as well as for pneumatic cylinders via valve terminals connected to the CPX terminal. The controller module enables freely programmable individual applications and simple multi-axis applications from point to point. It acts as a controller for all the connected CPX units and, above all, it can be programmed freely in CoDeSys.
Rectus - Spesialist for Low Pressure systems
Rectus roots date back about 60 years, when the company’s founding father, Walter Klein, invented the one-hand quick-release coupling. With this million-selling article, the Swabian turned his firm into a front-ranking specialist for compressed-air connector systems. "We have evolved in recent years into a supplier of specialised couplings, manufacturing a very large number of customised solutions made possible by in-depth manufacturing penetration. This is why we do quite a lot of machining ourselves", explains Gerhard Bochert, Head of Production Completion and Tool Construction at Rectus GmbH from Nussdorf (near Stuttgart), which nowadays belongs to the American corporation Parker Hannifin.
Machining plays an important role
The bandwidth is broad, the couplings are produced in all batch sizes for prototypes to large series comprising several million parts. The couplings go to all sectors of industry; the growth markets include automotive and medical technologies. High priority is attached to the manufacture of prototypes and relatively small series up to a batch size of 5,000 on what are in some cases machines developed and built in-house. In-house machining, however, plays a major role for large series as well. "Here, for example, we turn plastic couplings as prototypes for medical applications, which are then manufactured at an outside job shop in large injection-moulded series, utilising our preliminary work and our specification", explains Bochert.
What is made in Nussdorf?
One speciality is products for the medical sector: under cleanroom conditions, industrial couplings are produced from high-quality plastics and elastomers. To quote Thomas Emmel, Division Business Development Manager: "Our couplings excel in terms of unrivalled mechanical strength, with a minimised weight, a flow path free of dead space, plus resistance to most liquids and to high temperatures of up to plus 148 degrees Celsius".
Large series start off in-house
Rectus manufactures its components on machines like the automatic and CNC lathes from Traub. The sample production operation possesses three Weil lathes and one Hermle milling centre, which also handles individually customised orders. To quote Bochert: "We also manufacture large series in the start-up phase in-house, so we can use the key numerical feedback obtained to guide our pricing negotiations with the vendors concerned".
Latest innovations in Rectus:
New Coupling Series for the Processing Industry
The RECTUS Group recently presented a new quick connect coupling for the low pressure range with lower coupling force than any standard model currently on the market. A further innovation: as a leak-free design in nominal diameter of 4, 6 and 9, the new coupling series offers the smallest nominal diameter ever available on the market (4 mm). The new RECTUS couplings also stand out for their extremely low leakage rates and for a minimal volume of dead space: this also has the effect of eliminating airlocks during the connecting procedure, as only a negligible film of the medium being transported remains on the valve bodies during disconnecting. Designed for single-handed operation, another captivating aspect of the leak-free series is its extremely easy handling: thanks to the new, ergonomic sleeve shape - which ensures good grip and handling even with gloves.
For both material qualities - stainless steel (316L) and brass (nickel or chrome plated) - O-rings are available in FKM or in NBR, EPDM and FFKM on request. As all the most stressed components of the coupling are equipped with high-grade materials, the new 200 series can even be used in environments with high requirements for material and function - such as in the process-technical industry for aggressive liquids, for example.
Large Self-Venting Coupling with Nominal Diameter 10
A new self-venting coupling with nominal diameter 10 has been added to the compressed air range of Nussdorf couplings specialist, Rectus AG. The "27KE" model range includes an integrated safety function: the two separate unlocking mechanisms mean that the coupling can only be opened once it has been completely ventilated. This avoids the dreaded whiplash effect - the massive backlash of pressurized hoses. The system meets the requirements of ISO 4414 and has already proven its effectiveness with smaller nominal diameters. A further plus for the practical single-handed coupling is the resistant plastic sleeve. This not only prevents sensitive surfaces from scratching, but also makes it easier to operate in the cold.
Pflitsch - 90 years’ market experience
Pflitsch GmbH & Co. KG from Huckeswagen (near Remscheid) has been making connection elements for electrical devices and systems since 1919. Headed by Harald Pflitsch, the grandson of the company’s founding father, the firm nowadays produces high-quality cable glands and trunking for industrial users all over the world. It handles a broad spectrum of materials, from brass, plastic, aluminium all the way through to titanium. For making its products, Pflitsch possesses cam-controlled Traub automatic lathes, Schutte multi-spindle models (6 and 8 spindles), CNC- lathes from Mori Seiki, Traub and Index, plus deburring systems and a degreasing chamber.
Integration of field bus technology
Pflitsch not only manufactures machine tools, it also supplies their manufacturers. To quote Sales Manager Carsten Wohlrath: "This sector prefers cable entry systems for control cubicles or junction boxes where integration of field bus technologies is incorporated, for instance." The company produces its cable trunking on the CNC-controlled Trumpf TruPunch punching-nibbling machine in a complete handling system.
Innovations in Pflitsch product range:
MatchClamp for compact cable entry points with IP 68 and one to ten times strain relief
With MatchClamp, PFLITSCH is presenting a revolutionary cable installation technology to the world, with which cables can be easily, safely and captively assembled, for example, on housings, equipment and connectors. Possible fields of application are vibration-proof sensor systems, industrial robots, respiration equipment, railway technology, motors, driving gears and a host of other areas with high requirements being made on fastening techniques. There are MatchClamp sleeves for cable diameters from 2 to 30 mm. Their mounting is as simple as possible: Prior to assembly the sleeves are simply slipped over the cable and after positioning with cheek plates connected to the cable as captive. As the cable feedthroughs can be bent through 90°, this results in stable anti-kink protection. EMC screening is likewise possible.
Possible fields of application are vibration-proof sensor systems, industrial robots, respiration equipment, railway technology, motors, driving gears and a host of other areas with high requirements being made on fastening techniques.
Trunking system made of stainless steel with protective systems up to IP 69K
The new PFLITSCH stainless steel trunking attains protective systems between IP66 and IP69K depending on the execution concerned. The construction proves convincing through its easy handling and simple design: The 100 mm wide trunking pieces come initially as standard in 6 different lengths from 125 to 2,000 mm. Individual routings through machinery and equipment are managed via the Multibox. Outgoing lines not needed on the Multibox are sealed with blind plates. Fields of application for this trunking system are, by way of example, the food industry, bottling engineering and the pharmaceutical industry.
The heart of this stainless-steel trunking is the Multibox, from which trunking routing is possible in any X/Y/Z direction. Special seals between the trunking body and cover ensure the high protective system. To attain the high degree of leak tightness, the covers are firmly screwed to the trunking bodies and additionally provided with appropriate seals.
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